Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Creativity in the Classroom

There is much discussion about creativity in the classroom and how that would look. When I visit classrooms, there are times when teachers offer students a great deal of choice around demonstrating their learning. These choices allow students to creatively present what they know in a manner that allows them to do their best. Yet, other times students are required to "create" a product that meets the specific expectations of the teacher (and not just to meet curricular requirements but that the product must look exactly the same as everyone else's). All the art products hanging cheerfully on the wall look the same; all the written responses have the same answer; all the answers are exactly the same because the question was so narrow.



Sir Ken Robinson has spoken repeatedly on creativity in the classroom and especially how the creativity is often destroyed in children as they go through the education system. He believes that creativity is as important as literacy. A great video to watch regarding Sir Ken's thoughts is http://www.edutopia.org/sir-ken-robinson-creativity-part-one-video.

Trisha Riche talks about 22 ways to encourage creativity in the classroom and she describes creativity as:
Creativity is innovation.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. If something isn't working, then it's broken and needs to be fixed. Come up with something else that will work for your students.

Creativity is thinking outside the box.
Everything doesn't always have to be black and white. Sometimes the oddball activities are the ones that work.

Creativity is improvisation.
Things don't always turn out the way you planned. When I've realized that a lesson wasn't working midway through, I literally tossed it out and started over. I tried a different angle (in this case, incorporating a movie that my students liked), and it worked.

Creativity is professional growth.
We don't always have all of the answers. If you can't figure out what to do, use your coworkers as resources. You might find some really great ideas that make sense for your students. Also, look at research and see what has worked for other teachers around the world. Use resources like KS1, KS2, hubbardscupboard.org and starfall.com for some fun engaging activities.

Creativity is being a risk taker or mold breaker.
I have had many crazy ideas for things to try in the classroom. Some have worked and some haven't, but I found that trying was better than being stuck in the same pattern that isn't working.

Creativity is passion.
Be passionate about what you are doing. You are there to inspire students to become lifelong learners. If you want them to love learning, you have to love what you are teaching.



Jeffrey Baumgartner suggests listening to Bach to boost your creativity. We recently began playing music in the hallways as students entered so perhaps we will add Bach to the repetoire to boost the creativity of our students. And while that may work, the bottom line is the classroom teacher must promote a creative classroom.

Marvin Bartel writes about the top ten creativity killers in the classroom and while he is referring to his art class, these pointers should be used in the regular classroom also. His top creativity killer is when he encourages "renting" ideas rather than "owning" them. He says making ideas your own means that you choose it, improve it, shake it, pound it, deconstruct it, reengineer it, materialize it, test it, internalize it, and so on. You can not simply copy it or rent it.
Next, he says that if you simply return materials to students with a mark and no meaningful feedback, you kill creativity.

On buzzle.com I read that "classrooms are supposed to be fun learning centers, where the most important quality required is freedom of expression. By encouraging creativity in the classroom, a teacher is ensuring that the student has the ability to analyze a problem and think for herself, and is not swayed by orthodox and conventional rules. By promoting free speech, the students are more capable of expressing their thoughts and views regarding any anomalies."

Finally, on the Helium website there are listed 14 different articles that would share how to promote creativity in the classroom.

If we allow our students creative space, all students will feel successful, not just the students who can re-create the teacher's sample or answer.
School Supplies Pencils Erasers August 07, 20102

Friday, 9 December 2011

Learning not Teaching

Thinking about ensuring an equitable education for ALL students and ensuring that ALL students learn: Why should a struggling student be doomed to live a life of poverty because we did not ensure they have learned what is essential?
By Greg Kushnir

Student Teaching 1996
I was struck by this thought at my last principal network meeting. I have never really thought about student learning in this light. Our responsibility to ensure all students learn is more far reaching than this year only. In today’s fast paced society, students without an education will have very few options. In the past, students who did not learn or who dropped out could work in a factory or on the farm. Those options are few and far between in today’s automated and ever more global society. Therefore it is up to educators to ensure students have many options. The students in our building belong to all of us. We are all responsible for all students and our shift from a focus on “my teaching” to a focus on “student learning” is crucial to become a school were all students receive an equitable education that meets their needs.
Jim Knight writes that teams of teachers need to come together to intentionally plan how to use the high-leverage teaching practices that are researched based to meet the needs of all students (2011, p 11).
Anthony Muhammad writes that we should "never consider education a luxury; it is a necessity, especially for children in poor and minority communities, so that they can some day enjoy a high quality of life. It may be their only chance at a better life" (2009, p 9).

It is up to educators to focus on student learning every day. How does that look in your classroom?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

My Journey Thus Far . . .

Wordle: My Web 2.0 Journey

From Wordle.net

Blogging

Laptop Keyboard
By Baddog on Flickr

Blogging in classrooms is a discussion currently taking place in our school. There are teachers who think it might have a place in the classroom but it is foreign to them so they are reluctant to jump in with both feet. They think it may take a lot of time. One teacher thought by blogging we are just promoting a child's need to feel he/she is the centre of the universe and that the whole world is interested in what he/she has to say. And in her opinion, no one is really interested in what a child has to say.

Kathy Cassidy
blogs about blogging with students repeatedly in her many blogs. She offers that students who blog become highly engaged students. What would Kathy say to the teacher who thinks students should remain in their classrooms and write for the only audience she offers: herself.
What about authentic tasks? Wouldn't a blog be considered an authentic task?

“Learning methods that are embedded in authentic situations are not merely useful; they are essential.” - Brown, Collins & Duguid. 1989

According to a study out of Australia at University of Wollengong there are 10 components of an authentic task:

1.Authentic tasks have real-world relevance
Activities match as nearly as possible the real-world tasks of professionals in practice rather than decontextualised or classroom-based tasks.

2.Authentic tasks are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity. Problems inherent in the tasks are ill-defined and open to multiple interpretations rather than easily solved by the application of existing algorithms. Learners must identify their own unique tasks and sub-tasks in order to complete the major task.

3.Authentic tasks comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time. Tasks are completed in days, weeks and months rather than minutes or hours, requiring significant investment of time and intellectual resources.

4.Authentic tasks provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a variety of resources. The task affords learners the opportunity to examine the problem from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives, rather than a single perspective that learners must imitate to be successful. The use of a variety of resources rather than a limited number of preselected references requires students to detect relevant from irrelevant information.

5.Authentic tasks provide the opportunity to collaborate. Collaboration is integral to the task, both within the course and the real world, rather than achievable by an individual learner.

6. Authentic tasks provide the opportunity to reflect. Tasks need to enable learners to make choices and reflect on their learning both individually and socially.

7.Authentic tasks can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond domain-specific outcomes. Tasks encourage interdisciplinary perspectives and enable diverse roles and expertise rather than a single well-defined field or domain.

8.Authentic tasks are seamlessly integrated with assessment. Assessment of tasks is seamlessly integrated with the major task in a manner that reflects real world assessment, rather than separate artificial assessment removed from the nature of the task.

9.Authentic tasks create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else. Tasks culminate in the creation of a whole product rather than an exercise or sub-step in preparation for something else.

10.Authentic tasks allow competing solutions and diversity of outcome. Tasks allow a range and diversity of outcomes open to multiple solutions of an original nature, rather than a single correct response obtained by the application of rules and procedures.


A blog really fits the bill in all of the areas. It is has real world relevance. You put your thoughts out for the world to comment on. The blog is open ended and ill-defined. The students must make sense of what they are putting on their blog post. It is certainly a sustained task as the blog can go on indefinitely. A blog allows students to read the perspectives of others and to examine a topic from many perspectives. Collaboration is the key to a blog. You write to begin a conversation. You are certainly offered a platform to reflect in a blog. Assessment is built in to the blog as a teacher is able to read and respond to the students' writing. The blog itself is a product not just practice for something else. The student is not just writing a meaningless sentence required by the teacher on a meaningless topic, but is real to the student and the reader. Diversity rules in blogland. Each blog and blog post will be different and meaningful in different ways depending on the passion of the writer.

What do you think? What would you say to the teacher who doesn't want students to be putting their thoughts out for the world to see?
Will you take the step to give your students a global voice in this ever expanding global, 21st century world or will you limit your students' voices to the classroom?

Friday, 2 December 2011

SMART Goals

If we are to be serious about inclusion, we need to set SMART goals for our students, our classrooms and our schools. I am sitting in a PD session with Ken Williams to examine where we are at in our journey toward becoming a professional learning community. We grapple with the fact there are many students included in our classrooms and how we will meet their needs. If we begin with the end in mind as we often expect our students to do in goal-setting, it makes perfect sense for us to set goals as well.

Our goals should be specific, measurable,attainable, realistic and timely. Only then can we focus on the abilities we are working to express on our own behalf as well as for our students. Only then will we able to get past our focus on deficits of our own or of our students.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Amazing Northern Lights!

There are an abundance of videos available that would make learning come alive for all students, and particularly students learning English or students with reading difficulties. Rather than reading about the Northern Lights, what excitement to see the Northern Lights from a real video! Enjoy this amazing video:

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.


This Video is from the site, Vimeo described by Wikipedia as "a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos. It was founded by Zach Klein and Jake Lodwick in November 2004. The name Vimeo was created by co-founder Jake Lodwick and is a play on the word video, inserting the word "me" as a reference to the site's exclusive dedication to user-made video, and is also an anagram of "movie."[3] Vimeo does not allow gaming videos,[4] pornography, or anything not created by the user to be hosted on the site.[5]
The basic membership is free and includes:
High quality video
500MB/week upload space
Upload 1 HD video/week
3 albums, 1 group, 1 channel
No bandwidth or time limits
Basic video player customization
Password-protected videos
This is a great opportunity for teachers and students to not only search out great videos, but to have a place other than YouTube to post videos.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Twitterific!


Where should I begin on this topic? I have been gathering research in the past week or so in order to present Twitter to my staff as a professional learning tool. I know I have to approach this subject just so, because the world of my teachers has been full of complexities this year. With highly diverse needs in the classroom, new reporting systems to address and the beginnings of a Professional Learning Community framework, there is a "bit" of tension in the school. So the first blog I read was Mark Brumley's "Twitter for the Professional Development: Ultra Beginner Edition." His description here is a very basic, easy to understand piece that I will share with my staff. Also mentioned are Tweetdeck (which I have not yet used, but will check into).
Next, I found some rationale for joining Twitter. I know that my staff always require rationale for trying something new so this was a "must find." Peter DeWitt's article, "Why Educators Should Join Twitter" gives compelling reasons including:
1. the ability to make connections with other educators. For example, checking out the hashtag, #elemchat, will show educators from around the world posting information interesting to an elementary teacher. (I checked this out and found many, many interesting links to check out: just doing this alone is invaluable).
2. Our students today live with Twitter and Facebook. While this is "hard" work for us, we need to know the world our students live in.
3. Many organizations will share resources on Twitter that you may not find elsewhere.
4.There is so much out there in cyberspace that you could never find all of this on your own, so Twitter brings many resources to one place for professional development
5. Free PD. In this time of fiscal restraint, PD dollars are few. What a way to get PD for no money! Your administrator will love you!

Next, I found an article, "How to Use Twitter to Grow Your PLN" by Betty Ray This is a wonderful listing of hashtags to follow or search and chat times for a variety of topics. This is something I have yet to do but once this course is over, I may have time to do this.

Then, I found a short article, "5 Ways to Engage Others Using Twitter" by J. Robinson. This post gives suggestions of how to engage your readers without boring them with day to day details of "I went for lunch" or "I ate oatmeal for breakfast" because, really, who cares? I like the idea of answering a tweet with a question to keep the dialogue going or to post a thoughtful or provocative quote. Better yet, Robinson says to post about something controversial to get a conversation going.

Karen Bromley describes a new world of writing as "digital events that occur worldwide. They include word processing, email, blogging, twittering, and text messaging on the Internet, cell phones, smartphones, and PDA's" (2010, p. 98)

Clearly, educators need to get with the "program" so to speak and learn this fascinating world of Twitter, if not to understand the world of their students, but to glean valuable professional learning in less than 140 characters. My personal journey with Twitter has been ever so enlightening. I have learned SOOOOO much since reading my Twitter account on a regular basis. My two challenges or goals I set at this point are to:
a) get my staff on fire to set up Twitter accounts (I am presenting this on the 1st of December so I will fill you in)
b) begin to contribute to the Twitter world in order to give back a portion of what I have gained in the past months.


Bromley, K.. (2010). Picture a world without Pens, Pencils, and Paper: The Unanticipated Future of Reading and Writing. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 41(1), 97-108. Retrieved November 24, 2011, from CBCA Education. (Document ID:2195054781).

What a reaction!

iPad 2 w/ Smart Cover by leondel on Flickr
So I shared the video from my previous post with a grade 6 class at my school. They were blown away! They were excited that kids could really develop apps for the iPad and the iPhone and sell them. When the boy in the video shared the software available to create apps, nearly every student in the room wrote down the information and had me replay the information again so they could be sure to get it right. With just a bit of encouragement and the right tools, these students can do anything. the thought crossed my mind that perhaps we should create a space for students to work on the skills that will take them anywhere. I feel an "App Club" materializing. I am excited to see just what they will do.
Computer Skills Class By Extra Ketchup on Flickr

Saturday, 19 November 2011

What can students do?

What are our students capable of? The sky is the limit, really. I had to share this video of what one student has done to make an impact. Amazing stuff. . .


Where will you take your students? How capable will you believe they are? Do you communicate with your students the sky is the limit? Or do you simply limit them with pen and paper persecution; condemned to the tedium of past teaching methods? I am sure if Thomas Suarez was not encouraged by those around him to reach for his dreams, to take a risk, these apps would not be created. How often do we look at our learning environment with a critical inner eye? Is our environment about the children learning or is it about our way of teaching? Do we say, I am a good teacher and these students need to get used to my teaching? Or do we look for ways to meet the needs of all students in our classroom? I posted this link earlier but it has been a tough week as we have completed report cards and is a question that begs reflection regularly as we "assess" students "our way" and often forget that we may need to flex the way we assess to meet the needs of the little ones in our care.
As Will Richardson blogged,
But I’m thinking it’s time to call some of these old school habits out and ask, “are we really doing what’s best for kids, or are we doing what’s easiest for us?”
Like:
Is it better for our kids to be grouped by chronological age, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to separate out the disciplines, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to give every one of them pretty much the same curriculum, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to turn off all of their technology in school, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids that we assess everyone the same way, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids for us to decide what they should learn and how they should learn it, or is it just easier for us?
So, are we in the business of easy? Or do we want to find ways to do this education thing in ways that best serve our kids given the realities of this moment?
Just askin’.

Alternative to Animoto

Here is another option for movie making in the classroom. Stupeflix offers a free option to upload pictures from either Facebook, Flickr or Picasa. There is a wider choice of music to add to the movie and the formats for the movie, while there are only four to choose from are quite interesting. You have the option to add more text throughout the movie and to set up your own choice of transitions. I also liked the option of adding a map to show where the action took place.

Here is a sample that took me minutes to complete (it is that easy!).


I found out about this website by, you guessed it, reading a post through Google Reader. I found the post by Mark Brumley while sitting down and reading on a Saturday night. Brumley's blog offers many ideas about different Web 2.0 tools to use in the classroom and I read it regularly in order to pass ideas on to my staff

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Movement in the Classroom




In my quest to learn to embrace the use of podcasts, I found an interesting podcast on ASCD's Whole Child website. The podcast I listened to explained that students will be more successful in the classroom if they have regularly scheduled structured opportunities to play. This structured play will actually spill over in free play time. They explain that students need to be coached in the art of play so students can learn about the process to play. They continue by saying that play helps create a more playful and joyful place to be engaged and an engaged student will take more risks.
Here is the podcast link if you want to hear more:
http://whatworks.wholechildeducation.org/podcast/more-than-just-gym-integrating-movement-across-the-school-day/

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Anna's First Birthday

Anna's first birthdayVia Flickr:What? You want to sit in my princess chair?

This is my beautiful granddaughter (the first girl!) on her first birthday. I had some fun with Flickr as I continue to learn about the capacity of this tool. The edits to the original photo were done through a connection with Piknik. This is just a sample of what is able to be done with a photo. You can do some pretty high level editing should you choose to. Of course, as with most Web 2.0 tools, this is the free version and much more is capable with the Premium version. After creating a fancy portrait, there are possibilities to order prints of your creation. As a matter of fact, I posted this blog entry directly from Flickr. That is a great option.
If you run your cursor over the picture, you can read the notes that I added to help me remember the perfect day. I learned how to do this by reading the Newbie's Guide to Flickr, a blog by CNet and written by Josh Lowensohn. He states The cool thing about notes is they don't get in the way if viewers don't want them. To see them, users can just move their cursor over a picture to pull them up. You can have several different notes on the same picture, and other users can add notes to your pictures. Good note etiquette: keep notes easy to see and use by not overlapping them.
I can see this as another way to get students writing about an image presented. You could share a photo in Google.docs and have students upload the picture to a common Flickr account and have students comment on what they notice in a picture. This would be a great tool in art when you are studying specific strands of art. Again, students with special needs may feel more comfortable using the computer to comment rather than commenting in the whole class setting.
I know I will continue to play with Flickr as I discover all of the possibilities. My next foray into Web 2.0 will be to try a mashup or a Glogster. I was introduced to Glogster at a PD day last week and have read about a mashup. That will be next using Flickr. Interesting, isn't it, how you learn one thing that leads you to another thing and then another thing. . .

Friday, 11 November 2011

Mining for Gold


Perusing the web in search of information to share with staff regarding the usefulness of RSS feeds, I came across an article in Learning and Leading with Technology (March/April 2009) entitled Mining for Gold by Chris Bigenho. He states "the truth is that RSS allows [him] to pull together rapidly changing and mounting information.

Buzzle.com describes RSS as content coming to you instead of you having to go many different websites. This is exactly why I think I like this tool so much.

Bill Ferriter says it as I feel it:
Having fallen madly in love with my feed reader several years ago---who COULDN'T get behind a digital tool that automatically checks my favorite websites for new content every day and brings updates to one homepage for me

I agree wholeheartedly! I have fallen in love with my feed reader and enjoy reading the variety of blogs I am following almost as much as reading a good novel (not quite though!). I have learned so much in the past that I can't help recommending to have an RSS feed either on your computer or on your smartphone. I would never know even half of what I have learned without this tool. My next step will be to get some of my staff on board. With our focus on inclusion in our school, this is the ultimate tool to find information to support our journey either with strategies to use in the classroom or research to back up what we are doing. Until that time, I will continue to share what I have found with my staff on a regular basis and hope they appreciate and find useful the material I have found.

RSS: Really Simple Syndication or as I say, Really Super Studying!

As I read my RSS feed again tonight, I have discovered a wealth of information about inclusive classrooms. Before I discovered RSS, I would use the Google search engine to find information. Now, I have a multitude of information coming from diverse feeds. This beloved tool has become a source for professional development that is free and easy to access. I can read it on my Google Reader aggregator or on my mobile RSS feed on my iPhone. I can read it in small chunks in a non-linear fashion as needed. I can take a couple of minutes while I am waiting at the dentist or just before dinner. Although I tend to sit for more than a couple of minutes as it is so interesting.

Tonight I read Gayle Hernandez' post from the Inclusive Class. She shares her beliefs about inclusion:

· Inclusive environments do not happen by accident… They are created through careful planning and preparation.

· There are many steps to supporting all children that happen both in and out of the classroom, from Kindergarten to Grade 12. I am a Kindergarten teacher and as such am blessed with the opportunity to set up successful beginnings for all families – those with designated extra needs and without.

· I begin with the tenant that each child has blessings and strengths to bring. Children are strong and capable – not weak or with inherent deficits. All have areas that will require support to move forward. The point I want to make clear here is that I do not put my students with designations such as Autism, Learning Disabilities, ESL, behaviour and the like into a ‘special box’ in my head that will separate them from our classroom learning community. They all belong and it is my job to help each one of them become successful.

· I must modify my programming to accommodate the child and his/her needs. I have a child-centered approach to teaching and learning. There is curriculum to accomplish, of course – but it is my belief that in order to help children be successful in school I need to assess where they are then come up with a ‘doable’ plan to help that child move from where they are in their learning toward curriculum mastery. For each child this plan looks a bit different – designated special needs or not!

· The families of the children I teach are the first teachers and are to be valued and included in their children’s education.

· I do not work in isolation in my classroom. I continuously draw on the expertise of those around me to help when I hit a dead end and don’t know what to do next. I don’t have all the answers and grow stronger through collaboration with school based colleagues, our resource team, district experts, and of course parents too!



Had I never begun to use my RSS feed, I would never have found this information. I would not have followed this blog on a regular basis. I feel quite comfortable using RSS now and plan on sharing it with my teachers as an alternate to going away for Professional Development in these economically challenging times. I hope they fall in love with this type of learning as I have.

More Learning about Podcasts

After completing my first podcast, I have had several discussions with teachers about where we could go with this tool. Allendale Junior High school teachers use podcasts to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their learning and teachers post student podcasts on their school website a) because they are proud of their students' work and b)because other students can use this information as a study aid in subsequent years. Our grade 6 teachers are looking at some of these podcasts that contain information regarding topics being studied in grade 6 (ie. democracy).
I am learning that there are great possibilities for podcasts, however, it will take time (and that is always the problem for teachers) for teachers to learn how to use this tool and decide where to implement it. At this point I ask that each teacher finds a tool that they would feel comfortable with and use it regularly to learn its value and place in the classroom.

I am still a beginner in this area but I am an advocate for its use and possibilites. I found yet another site that offers a great deal of information on podcasts that I will share with teachers at tf video. I still find it hard to listen to a podcast from start to end as this is not my learning style. However, I know there are many auditory learners in schools who would benefit. My goal, therefore, will be to promote this tool as another alternative for assessment in the k-6 classroom and secondly, I hope to add a button to our school website to share student learning with a wider audience.

Here is a great example of using podcasts in a classroom setting. These are short clips of students' favorite parts of Daily 5 in their classroom. Certainly, gives you a sense of what they are thinking and helps the teacher understand more about how they learn.
http://kidblog.org/MsBrownsClass19/


My next big step will be to play with video podcasts or vodcasts for the classroom.

Google Docs in the Classroom

The school board I work for currently uses Google Docs as a collaborative platform for students through what is called the Student Portal. Students log on either at school or at home and can work collaboratively with peers to complete a project. All students get a Gmail account in order to log on to the share site. A teacher in the district talks using Google Docs in the classroom in this YouTube video:


Will Richardson, in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010)describes Google Docs as having "wiki-esque features in that you can invite anyone to edit and create the document or table, and you have a history of who has done what in terms of changes (p 69). He continues by saying that such platforms teach students about working with one another, about creating community and finally how to operate in a world where "the creation of knowledge and information is more and more becoming a group effort (p 69).

William Kist, in The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age (2010) explains that Google Docs allows storage of documents so that "colleagues and friends can collaborate . . . anywhere and at any time (p 36). It is this feature that appeals to the parents in our school. Many parents take vacations during the school year and if the teacher is using Google Docs, the student on vacation can access work, even with partners, anywhere there is an internet link (supposing the student takes a computer along on vacation).

Daniel Light
states "activities that became the underpinnings of the successful
learning communities we studied were not “special projects” that the teachers assigned to their students every once in a while. They made using these tools a daily practice in their classrooms (p 11). Teachers in my school who use Google Docs on a regular basis find their students are highly successful and comfortable using this technology. Recently, students wrote letters to their parents describing their learning to a certain point. Students posted their letters and had other students give them feedback on their work. They went through the draft process sharing their work multiple times until they reached a finished product. Finally, they shared the work through the Share site with me, giving me the opportunity to offer feedback as well.

Finally, our school recently became a wireless environment so we are using a portable set of netbooks. Because the netbooks do not have a word processing program installed, it is necessary to use Google Docs. This is "an example of "cloud computing," whereby the cloud is the Internet; the user no longer needs to purchase expensive office software and install on their hard drive because everything is done "in the cloud"" (Berger and Trexler, 2010, p 111).

Our school staff is in the process of moving to using the Share site on Google Docs to share information that all staff needs access to. As well, our collaborative teams will eventually use this platform to create essential learning outcomes for curriculum and common assessments to complete both formative and summative assessments for these outcomes.

Here is a fun instructional YouTube video created by students for students:


As teachers take the risk to journey into the land of "the cloud," students will have the opportunity to work collaboratively. Working collaboratively will give all students a voice in the creative process. Students who need writing support could use a tool such as Word Q to complete the writing within Google Docs to contribute to the groupwork. Students with more difficulty writing could contribute images to the collaboration. Therefore, all students would be able to contribute using Google Docs.

Personally, I have yet to use the Google Docs with consistency. I have used Google Docs to create a survey that we posted on SchoolZone ( a platform to send parents information and reports on a regular basis), I have used information on the share site that represents work from my principal network and I have responded to student work. As our goal is to be completing our collaborative team work on Google Docs by the end of the year, I expect to become a more regular user. At this time, I am reading and learning so that I can support my teachers in their quest to become regular Google Docs users in the classroom. Only then will I feel more competent in this area. Lucky for me, there are several YouTube How-To videos to watch as well as instruction on our School Board share site, that is supported by our IT team.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Sunday, 6 November 2011

I love the mountains with Flickr

I am trying to learn more about Flickr in order to introduce it to my teachers. Berger and Trexler outline several uses for Flickr in the classroom and include:
-writing prompts
-discussions around an image
-teaching categories and classification in science class
-capture school events and field trips
-create color and number sets for primary students
-create trading cards for famous people for a biography unit
-practice sequencing with a step by step record of a larger process
-virtual storytelling
-illustrate a poem or story
-art study, analysis, discussion through notes feature
-virtual portfolio using the set feature
-label diagrams
-storage site for photos to use with other applications like Big Huge Lab, Magazine Cover, Movie Poster, etc (p 149)
Adding photos to my account is super easy and I even added an app to my iPhone that allows me to upload photos to Flickr directly from my phone. I thought one of the easiest things for students to do would be to take a series of pictures to create a set. So I did that and added a set of 10 photos from the mountains. Next, I looked into sharing my set on my blog. With a simple copy of embed code, my slide show is here. Amazing, isn't it?



This would be an excellent tool that would meet the needs of all students in the classroom. Not only would students enjoy this as part of their language arts program, but would be able to use this skill over time as they moved to junior high, high school and beyond. A lifelong skill for sure.

I am finding it easier to use Flickr and I am especially happy with the iPhone App that allows me to upload to Flickr using my phone. I was confused about how to get pictures from the phone to the computer and this has made it very easy to do so. I am still learning about all that Flickr is capable of and I am sure I have only touched the "tip of the iceberg."

Saturday, 5 November 2011

If at first you don't succeed, try again. . .

Some time ago, I tried my hand at VoiceThread in order to share some opinions about inclusion. I was initially happy with the product, but when anyone tried to listen to it, the sound was incredibly quiet. So I went out and purchased a new microphone headset and low and behold, the sound has much better quality. So lesson learned. . . you need a decent microphone to record. This is something to consider as we look to create VoiceThreads at school. You need quality equipment and you can't "cheap out."
So here it is. . . a VoiceThread about inclusion WITH SOUND. I hope you enjoy.

You Tube and TED Talks

I was looking at TED talks on my phone to see if I could find something interesting to share for an inclusive classroom. There is such a vast array of talks to search through and I could have used a number to share that would have an impact on the classroom. I came across this talk by AnnMarie Thomas who talks about a unique way to teach students about electricity. She uses playdough to demonstrate circuits and conductivity. Our grade 5 classroom includes some students with significant fine motor issues and what a better way to demonstrate electricity than by using a easily managed tactile product that is easily manipulated by all students. Berger and Trexler conclude that "visual learners learn through seeing and retain information more effectively when it's presented in the form of pictures, diagrams, videos, and handouts" (p 15) So sharing this video with staff will have an impact on visual learners. As well, they state that "kinesthetic learners like to touch, manipulate, and work with what they are learning" (p 15). This video certainly offers an opportunity for kinesthetic learners to succeed.

My next step included figuring out how to share this great video. First, I thought it was great enough to share on Twitter but I couldn't Tweet right from the TED Talks site as it was currently down due to upgrades being added. So, I went to the YouTube site and searched for the video. Yippee! I found it and of course, I could Tweet about it directly using the "share" button below the video. To embed the video on this post was also exceptionally easy as YouTube provides the embed code that only needs to be cut and pasted.


Enjoy this short video that offers a great opportunity to teach using a very tactile method. See her website for more great ideas and pictures of projects students have complete.



TedTalks offer a great opportunity for some free professional development. You could enter any term in the search engine and find a talk that would be great. Here is an animated talk by Sir Ken Robinson about changing paradigms in education.



You could add video after video of talks that would be valuable for educators and parents alike. There is so much out there. The only problem is finding the time to search for it all! Richardson explains, "in early 2009, over 20 hours' worth of videos were being uploaded to YouTube.com each minute (that's right, I said minute). . .millions of photos, thousands of audio files, and countless other creations are now being added every day to the incredibly vast storehouse of information that the Web has become" (Richardson,Will, Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms, 2010, p 2). So much to see, so little time.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Make a Movie; It's fun!

So another Web 2.0 tool that would be fun to use in the classroom is Xtranormal.com. This tool gives an opportunity to the user to create an animated movie to share information. It is fairly simple to use and as the ad says, if you can type, you can make a movie. However, it used to be a free service with some options to pay for more popular characters, but now there is a cost for everything. The cost is minimal and there is an educational option that costs only $10 per month for a teacher plus $.50 per student in the class. If you were to use this service and pay for it, you would want to use it fairly often or you could purchase a month or two to complete a specific project. You may edit as many times as you wish and you can embed your videos on your blog or tweet.
Here is an example of a video that took me about an hour to create. There is room for improvement; I would play with the camera angles and add more pauses so the characters wouldn't speak so quickly, but it gives you the idea.

Peepz Movie
by: Bgiourme


I also used this for announcements at a staff meeting. We all had fun listening to who the resident experts were in the school.
Check it out:

staff meeting 1
by: Bgiourme


There are many ways to use this tool and a multitude of characters that you could use to get your information across. Students would enjoy this creative way to demonstrate their learning.

I certainly have enjoyed making these movies and teachers enjoyed the "change" from listening to me to watching a cute video with the same information. I expect I will use this again many times for different occasions. As well, one teacher in my class used this tool for students to demonstrate their knowledge last year. She had some problems with the program originally but I think the designers have ironed out some of the earlier programs.

TeachersFirst.com describes this program as easy to navigate in all subject areas and even suggests it would be a great program for students new to the English Language to add their own voice to the characters ( a feature of the program).

What do students think?

This week I interviewed a handful of students to find out what they think should be happening in the classroom in order for them to feel engaged and excited about learning. The results are very interesting and exciting at the same time. These are answers we as teachers need to take to heart. We need to listen to the children.

By the way, this project was created for two purposes: to be shared at our PD day on Monday that will focus on UDL in the bilingual classroom and for my University class. I used Audacity to record it and found it somewhat tricky to figure out. I did figure it out through trial and error. Once I created my MP3, I had to figure out how to share it. I came across a post called How to Choose a Podcast Host After reading this post, I went with Liberated Syndication or LibSyn. There is a small cost to host on this website but it was particularly easy to use.
I found the whole experience quite labor intensive and I will have to decide if I like to use this format or if I just need to get more familiar with the process. My next experiment will be with video rather than just audio.

Please enjoy the podcast and I know you will learn some new insights "out of the mouths of babes". It takes a few minutes to load, so please be patient.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/inclusion/student_opinion_about_learning.mp3

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Against Ableism

While checking the blogs I follow tonight, and stumbling along my non-linear reading journey, I came across a blog, Playing with Ideas written by Anita (I couldn't find her last name anywhere). I have made reference earlier to another blog she writes. She comments on a book called, New Directions in Education: Eliminating Ableism in Policy and Practice by Thomas Hehir. Particularly interesting statements she notes,
Hehir defines ableism as ” deeply held negative attitudes toward disability that are analogous to racism”.
Then I looked up “racism” according to Merriam-Webster racism is:
“a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race”.
YIKES!! if we superimpose ableism onto racism that is frightening!!!!
In his book Hehir encourages educators to carefully consider each student individually rather than as a group of people with similar traits and capacities.
Hehir recommends that educators to consider all planning for students with disabilities through the lens of: minimizing the impact of the disability while maximizing the child’s ability to participate.

Very interesting point of view when we consider Universal Design for Learning in the classroom. These belief of Ableism runs deep in classrooms today, however, and this belief will require a massive paradigm shift for change or reform to occur. We still say that "these children" need their own classroom or contained space. Is that because students with special needs require us to move beyond easy to better?
Will Richardson blogs,
Many of those old answers are feeling less and less useful when it comes to actually developing learners out of our kids instead of workers. Yet we stick to them. And I know the reasons are many and complex (it’s what we know and what we expect schools to be,) but I think at the end of the day, we’re loathe to change because it’s just easier this way. It’s not what best for our kids, but it’s what’s easiest for us. (I know…a lot of you are thinking “there ain’t nothing easy about this,” and you’re right. Caring for kids and doing right by them educationally in whatever system we have is hard, hard work.)

But I’m thinking it’s time to call some of these old school habits out and ask, “are we really doing what’s best for kids, or are we doing what’s easiest for us?”
Like:
Is it better for our kids to be grouped by chronological age, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to separate out the disciplines, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to give every one of them pretty much the same curriculum, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids to turn off all of their technology in school, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids that we assess everyone the same way, or is it just easier for us?
Is it better for our kids for us to decide what they should learn and how they should learn it, or is it just easier for us?

You get the idea...

So, are we in the business of easy? Or do we want to find ways to do this education thing in ways that best serve our kids given the realities of this moment?



Anita also shares an interesting video called, Animal School to send the message home. She retrieved the video from http://www.raisingsmallsouls.com/


What does this look like in your classroom? Easy or Better? Universal Design for Learning or Ableism? Important questions for reflection.

Which tool to use to podcast?

I looked at two different podcasting tools and will give each of them a try. The first one that showed up when I googled podcasting was Audacity. This tools seems kind of complicated but was easy to download. As well, I found this video on how to use it.


The second tool I had recommended to me was Audioboo.

Here is a video demonstrating how to use Audioboo.


I will give both a try and then use the easiest to record student opinion about how teachers can break down barriers in the classroom. I can't wait to share.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Happy Hallowe'en from the Giourmies

Happy Hallowe'en from the Giourmies. I had a little fun with Animoto


This has got to be the easiest media to use to create a movie. First, you choose your background. Then,you simply have to load as many pictures as you want. Next, you add text if you like. Then, you can rearrange the pictures and text in the order you want them to appear. Finally, you add music from the library (you can add your own music but you must have permission to copyrighted material). Then, you simply push the "make the movie" button and Animoto does the rest, resulting in a professional looking product. You can create 30 second movies for free but for a small cost, you can increase the length of the movie and have access to more music and backgrounds. What a great product to use in the classroom instead of using the same old powerpoint again and again. I uploaded my photos to Flickr as Animoto easily uploads from Flickr directly or you can use pictures from your computer. I found it tricky to upload photos from Flickr so I used my computer. I still have not completely figured out Flickr so that is my goal to thoroughly understand this tool!!

Happy Hallowe'en!

In honor of Hallowe'en, I thought I would play with one of the tools I wanted to learn about: Voki. This fun tool would offer students the opportunity to share their learning in a fun, creative way. Many students today play Wii or Nintendo and are familiar with creating avatars to represent themselves, so this would not be new. Voki allows students to create an avatar and then give the avatar a voice. There are different options to give the voice: you can type and the program reads your message or you can record your message. Here is my Voki in the spirit of Hallowe'en with a short message.


If for some reason, you cannot get the player to play, try this link:
http://www.voki.com/mywebsite.php

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Practical Podcasts

Podcasts
from Flickr By Mingo.nl
I started doing a bit of research about podcasts. I downloaded an ap on my iPhone that allows me to subscribe to some educational podcasts. I googled why podcast? on the computer. Wikipedia defines a podcast(or non-streamed webcast) as a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication. The word replaced webcast in common use with the success of the iPod and its role in the rising popularity and innovation of web feeds.
I am trying to figure out what the point is. Amanda G. Watlington says that podcasts would be another way for teachers to deliver lessons. As a visual learner, I have a hard time seeing the value, but I realize that if we are to meet the needs of all learners, then a podcast would be an excellent learning opportunity for an auditory learner.

Angela Willis says that there are 5 main reasons to podcast including portability, the emotional side of podcasting, the cost effectiveness, the attention it would get and then the fact that you can subscribe to regular feeds.


Berger and Trexler compare the podcast to an old-fashioned radio show.

Will Richardson, in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms, says that podcasting is "yet another way for [students] to be creating and contributing ideas to a larger conversation, and it's a way of archiving that contribution for future audiences to use" (p 115).
He gives the example of Radio Willow Web from Willowdale Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska http://mps.mpsomaha.org/willow/radio/shows/Willowcast35.html. This podcast is hosted by a student talking about matter. Definitely a great opportunity for students to share their learning by another means. How empowering for students to be the experts on subjects from school.

At our school we used to have daily announcements that were read by me. Picture Charlie Brown and his fellow students listening to his teacher.
I am sure that is how the announcements went over in class. So, this year I am not doing announcements. Instead, we have a daily bulletin that comes with the attendance system so students either read it on the SmartBoard or the teacher reads it to them. I would love for students to do the announcements once per week via a podcast. I know students would listen to other students. Students who don't normally speak up in class might be far more comfortable recording their words in private that could be shared publicly later. This is a thought worth pursuing, however, I need to get a teacher to buy into taking this on as a project. Certainly thoughts to consider. . .

Down Syndrome Awareness Week

This next week is Down Syndrome Awareness Week.
On Paula Kluth's website, she shares a wonderful success story of inclusion. Here is an excerpt from a letter written by Kacie's mom.

Dear Paula,

A few years ago I attended a seminar in which you spoke about inclusion. I had an opportunity to speak with you, and what you said convinced me to insist that my daughter, Kacie, be included in classes with her peers. It was a wonderful decision, and I’ve never regretted it.

I wrote to you several months later and told you about her experience with French class. She went on to spend four years in French classes and really enjoyed them.

Kacie was “graduated” with her class last year, went to the prom with a young man who also has Down syndrome, and had a graduation party. At graduation, I waited patiently all the way to the S’s as the students marched across the stage to receive their diplomas. When it was Kacie’s turn, she paused mid-stage and raised both fists over her head in a victory gesture. The applause was thundering. We were near the front of the auditorium, and it was only later that another parent approached me and asked me if I knew that Kacie had received a standing ovation. I still tear up thinking about it.

This letter brought tears to my eyes also. This should be the story for every child. How is it that we decide who should fit in and who should not? How is it that we decide who will have the experience of friends and prom and who will not? Who's criteria should be used to decide? During this special week, we should be intensely aware of what true inclusion means for all children not just the ones we choose to "allow".

BTW, I started this post in my iPhone mobile blogger ap. . . how cool is that?

Playing with Pictures

I was reading one of the many blogs I have enjoyed following in the past week; Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog and reading in my new non-linear fashion, came across a link to a wiki he has set up to introduce 13 simple tools to alter digital images. It contains a wealth of ideas to use images for both students and teachers.
Here is the original picture of my grandson taken with my iPhone











Now here is Markos' picture using the free site, Picnik
It took me only minutes to do. What fun for students to try different applications to present their images as part of a larger presentation.









Now for something fun and completely different at ImageChef
And for one more. . . Big Huge Labs
My creation
(uploaded from Flickr, by the way. . . )
What fun for students. . . When you are working at creating a community, students could create their own motivational posters for the classroom or the school. Our school is a Leader in Me school and what a great idea to post posters around the school. Every student could create a poster that would contribute to our focus on Leader in Me. These are only a couple of tools demonstrated. One great site for image play is SmileBox.com. One of my teachers discovered this and created a "smilebox" with her students sharing their spooky ghost poem. Every student in this highly diverse classroom was excited to contribute and was proud of their contributions including our little student with virtually no English. It was a huge success.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Just Google It!

So I was playing around with my Diigo account to get ready to share my new found knowledge with a grade 6 class in my school and I discovered the Tag Cloud feature. The only thing I can't figure out yet is how to import my tags in that format. Then I had the great idea (I think it is great) to take a screen shot of the cloud. Well, that posed a problem because I didn't know how to do that. So I took the advice of a wise friend who said, "Just Google it!" I found an easy explanation at IOpus. That done, I found out that one on the keys on my keyboard actually has a function. The key marked PrtScrn/SysRq really does do something. If you press that key, you automatically have a screen shot saved to your clipboard. Next, you can paste that in a word document, which is what I did. Here is the shot. . .
Now all I have to do is figure out how to get the cloud to my blog without a screen shot (although I am thankful for learning about screen shots and that funny key on my computer that I thought was just for decoration).

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom: Why Diigo Rocks!

Here is yet another great post about the values of Social Bookmarking with some great opinions offered by Twitter Tweeters. . .


Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom: Why Diigo Rocks!

Bookmark This!

As I visited a grade 6 classroom at my school, the teacher asked how students could save the websites they had found. They had saved bookmarks in the previous class, or so they thought, and now they were having to re-search for their information because the bookmarks were no longer there for some reason. "Aha!" I said, "I have a new tool to share with you." After explaining my new found understanding of social bookmarking, the teacher invited me to her next class where I will have the distinct pleasure to share information about social bookmarking to a group of grade 6 students.

After researching and using both Delicious and Diigo, I think that either tool would serve the purpose they need. However, I like the sticky note tool and highlighting tool in Diigo, as well as some of the other features, so I will likely share Diigo with the students. As I was looking for a way to show students in case I missed any pertinent information, I came across the blog, InTec Insights: Technology Integration Ideas for the Classroom
The writer states the advantages of social bookmarking and how social bookmarking can be used by educators.
1. Save all of your bookmarks in one place. You will no longer have some of your websites saved on your home computer and some saved on your school computer. Many bookmarking sites also have apps that you can use on iPads and Android devices, so you can also access your bookmarks on iPads or mobile devices, too.
2. Social bookmarking is social because you are sharing your favorite websites with others. You can also view the bookmarks of people with similar interests. So, if you teach math you may find some great sites that are bookmarked by another math teacher.
3. Bookmarking sites allow you to add tags to the websites you save. So a math website could be tagged: math, 6th grade, and algebra. Tags allow you to categorize and organize your sites. So when you are looking for a particular site, it is easier to find.
4. Share your online bookmarks with teachers, students, or parents. You are creating a great resource!
5. Create a grade-level or classroom account and invite students to add websites. Encourage students to evaluate websites for educational merit before including them on your class bookmarking site.



The writer includes a great "how to" video, however, the social bookmarking site, Delicious, is used to demo, but still great information is shared.




Also listed on the blog are several different social bookmarking websites, several I didn't know existed. Everyday I am amazed at the capacity of the Web to help me organize myself and learn.



Here is a video that I will show the grade 6 students to begin their journey with Diigo's social bookmarking. It is so exciting to see teachers embrace these new ideas. I can't even imagine the possibilities for our children with exceptionalities. If you set up a group and several students in the classroom were researching, any student could use the collective knowledge of the group to learn. Such possibilities for all students.

Monday, 24 October 2011

You Make a Difference!

Darren Kuropatwa writes on his blog, A Difference that teachers make the difference for students. He writes,
You matter because you can change the face of teaching and learning in your school. All you have to do is change the world - a little bit at a time.
No teacher before you has ever taught children quite the way you do. No one ever will again.
The world needs to know what you’re doing. How you go about sharing your passion, your excitement, your enthusiasm for learning with the students in your classroom every day.
You make a difference in the world in the way you do this.
What you want for your students is for them to excel beyond your own expertise in all they learn from you.
It’s the dream of every teacher: to have your students become more knowledgeable, more capable, more competent than you.
It’s a measure of success.
Essentially you share your spark with them.
What we most want is to pass on that spark, this other centred attitude, an attitude towards the world that says: You Matter!
Adopting the attitude: “You Matter”, making people other than ourselves important and finding ways to make them more awesome, in the end, makes each of us a little more awesome. It creates the change we need in the world.
Let's pass that on to our students so they know they matter and understand their job is to make everyone they meet a little more awesome. When they’ve internalized what they’ve learned from us and brought it to another level: that’s success.
No one will ever see the world through the eyes of our students again. No one ever has, throughout the entire history of humanity. They have a unique contribution to make. We help them understand this is also true for everyone they meet.
Imagine a Canada, a world, where every politician, every trades-person, every professional, every store clerk tackled the world in this way? They’re all sitting in your classroom. Learning from you. Teach us too. Share what you know. Share how you know. Share what you learn. We need you too. You matter.


Here's to the teachers who make a difference! You matter!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The world needs all kinds of minds

When we think about inclusion, I am reminded of a discussion I heard lately about "those students" who need to be in a different place because they take up so much of our time. I wonder when educators will get past this kind of thinking? If we give up on children who may need more of our time and effort to offer them an experience of success, we may miss a student who will contribute great things in the future. What if Temple Grandin's parents and teachers had decided she should just be "put away"? We would have missed a great mind who has contributed great things in the field of agriculture. Watch this Ted Talk by Ms. Grandin. I hope you will be as inspired as I was.

Who Even Cares?

Loneliness by Ү
Loneliness, a photo by Ү on Flickr.

Now that I have learned about VoiceThread and posted a couple on my blog, I am wondering what is the best way to share them? I mean, just because you create a VoiceThread that you think is important doesn't mean that someone will even comment on it. How do you get the conversation started? The VoiceThread I posted about assessment was part of an online "course" so I realize that many people likely signed up to be part of the conversation. As well, I can also see the value of creating one for a conversation in the classroom with students commenting on each other's creation. BUT, what about creating a VoiceThread about something that interests you. Who even cares? Do you send it to your colleagues, hoping that they might take the time to look at it and maybe comment? Do you "volun-tell" your family to take part in the conversation? Or does your VoiceThread go to the land of other created, but unappreciated VoiceThreads?
After much thought, I realize that you must make a VoiceThread with a purpose in mind or it may end up on the "cutting room floor" so to speak. I am wondering if this would be a useful platform to begin a discussion with teachers or are they simply too busy to take the time to comment. Perhaps the greatest use is in the classroom or on your classroom blog to allow others to comment (parents, relatives, friends, other teachers, and students).

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Assessment in the Inclusive Classroom

I am learning to post VoiceThreads with more consistency. I found this interesting VoiceThread from Solution Tree that talks about assessment in the classroom while reading my Twitter feed tonight. As we work to create inclusive classrooms, we must remember that assessment is one of the four key questions we must ask as educators:
1. What do we want the students to learn?
2. How will we know that they have learned it? (Assessment)
3. What will we do if they have not learned it?
4. What will we do if they already know it?
(adapted from Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement by Rick DuFour and Robert Eaker)


Out of the Mouths of Babes

As I read my RSS feed tonight, I came across a post from Thinking UDL that shared some slides from a course offered on Universal Design for Learning.  Of course, you can't just read one post when the post talks about information gleaned from yet another post.  It is like a choose your own ending book.  You get to one point and then you go in another direction and then another and another and so on.  That is the joy of reading blogs.  You can never stop learning.  I must say, though, that sometimes my head is just so full.  Anyway, back to the post.  When I checked out another link, I found Anita's Tips, Tricks and Weblinks where she describes a primary classroom that demonstrates Universal Design for Learning.  This highly inclusive classroom allows children to represent their learning through multiple means and it is impressive how these little ones manage all of the technology.  Please watch the video of Kathy Cassidy's class of youngsters using a variety of technology tools.



If this isn't inspiring, I don't know what would be.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Who Knew What You Could Do With VoiceThread?

When I sat down to take a look at what is being done in the classroom with VoiceThread in order to have "ammo" to convince my teachers how awesome this tool was, I was very surprised at all of the ways to use it. Angela Christopher describes the process she used in her kindergarten and grade one class; yes, you read correctly, children that young created a wonderful project using VoiceThread.
Thinking Machine shows a VoiceThread and describes 100, yes 100 ways to use VoiceThread in the classroom. One particularly interesting thought is to use VoiceThread in the Bilingual Language classroom. What a fantastic opportunity to practice using the target language in a second language classroom by creating an opportunity for conversation around an image. Penn State University posted 24 Ways to Use VoiceThread in the classroom.
from the Hortonville Area School District website


Bill Ferriter describes the use of VoiceThread in the classroom as a tool to banish timidity and to boost participation. Ferriter says
more students participate more actively in digital discussions than in the classroom. "You don't have to be the loud one or the popular one," he points out. When he asked his students about their online involvement, he said they cited the sense of safety: "They can think about their comments beforehand." They also liked the fact that any VoiceThread has multiple conversations going on at once. "In a classroom conversation, there's generally one strand of conversation going at any one time, and if you're bored by that particular strand, you're completely disengaged.

screen shot from my iPhone
On the blog, Successful Teaching, the writer makes the point that voices can capture emotion and feelings where the written word cannot. What an added value. You not only "read" the writer's voice, but you actually would hear the emotion.

Finally, I discovered the mobile app for iPhone.  It is brilliant.  I could watch my VoiceThread right on my phone AND I can even create a VoiceThread on my phone.  Everyday I am amazed at how I can use technology. 

My hope is that with all of this rationale to share with teachers, they will see the value of using VoiceThread in the classroom.

What a great tool for the classroom!

I have to say I am impressed with Voicethread as a classroom tool but a bit frustrated with Flickr. I have read some great instructions in Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Teaching and Learning by Pam Berger and Sally Trexler and thank goodness for their no-nonsense instructions. The Voicethread program is easy to use and would definitely be one I would try in the classroom to give our students another opportunity to share their knowledge; Particularly our students with special needs. I can envision all students posting pictures and talking about them and feeling so proud when their fellow students commented back on their pictures. What a great way for students to share their knowledge without having to do a lot of writing. This would be particularly engaging for students who are reluctant writers or who are shy to speak out in class. This definitely gives all students a "voice." I am excited to share this with my staff and I hope they take the time to use it as an option for demonstrating learning thus adding to multiple means of representation as part of Universal Design for Learning.
As for Flickr, I am still getting used to using pictures from the Creative Commons and figuring out how they should be organized in order to make it easy to upload the pictures on a Voicethread. I know I did it in a convoluted manner and it took me much longer than it would had I organized the photos in the correct folders to start. I know now that I must organize the pictures differently.

Please find attached the Voicethread I created after collecting just over a dozen opinions regarding inclusion at the Alberta Teachers' Association Special Education Conference October 2011. Granted the opinions in the Voicethread are those of Special Educators, but overall, I think that the tone is hopeful for inclusion to become an Albertan reality. (The sound on the Voicethread is quite quiet but I think it is because my microphone is not that great but it is what we have at school currently.)


Sunday, 16 October 2011

voicethread in the classroom

So I am looking at different tools that could be used in the classroom in order for students to have multiple means of expression. As I was looking at the Voicethread website, I thought I would take a look at some voicethreads already posted and I came across this one about inclusion. I tried to embed this directly on my blog and may not be successful. So I will provide the link just in case: http://voicethread.com/share/197134/ I look forward to creating my own voicethread based on a little informal survey I did at the Special Education conference sponsored by the Alberta Teachers' Association Special Education Council.